Monthly Archives: March 2021


…And So It Has Come To This: ‘Beans Out!’

Joe Brolly On Life After RTE Censorship……

Thanks to JM for making this available on the internet. This is Joe Brolly’s riposte to RTE’s recent effort to silence him (Joe is the son of Co Derry singers Ann and Francie Brolly):

Max Hastings, Boris Johnson’s old editor at the Telegraph, wrote last month that “Irish unification will take place within a generation, righting a historical wrong” and “this outcome would serve the best interests of the Irish people”. He added: “Most British people don’t care a fig for the North.”

George Osborne, former Tory chancellor under David Cameron and former Evening Standard editor, said in January: “Northern Ireland is heading for the UK exit door and few people will care.”

When I said on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live debate on Monday nightthat the DUP is a short-term fantasy based on triumphalism, homophobia, racism and sectarianism, I was intending to go on and make the point that only when we honestly call this out, can we solve the Northern problem.If you took the sectarians, homophobes and racists out of the DUP, there would be hardly anyone left, so Gregory Campbell must have been bewildered that I was cut off by RTÉ.

Gregory, who, in the way of the DUP, cackled contemptuously at the Irish audience, told me once – during the interval of a debate we were having at the Belfast Festival – that he had found God in a blinding flash of light when he was 16. With the DUP dominated by evangelicals who won’t watch Strictly Come Dancing because there are gay couples on it, who believe Aids was a punishment from God on gays and that Covid is God’s penalty for legalising gay marriage and abortion, serious discussion is pointless.

When a political party claims to speak for God, there isn’t much point in taking a vote at the end of the meeting.Therefore, the solution must be created with or without them. There is recent precedent. Albert Reynolds, John Hume and David Trimble set out to create the peace and, in doing so, ignored them. Ian Paisley and his heavenly warriors bellowed and warned of Armageddon.When the Peace Agreement was signed, the DUP rejected it, then destroyed David Trimble (painting him as a traitor to Ulster) and progressive unionism.

As soon as that was done, Paisley U-turned and became First Minister. In spite of the DUP, we are enjoying the most spectacularly successful peace process in modern history. They have had an opportunity in the 25 years since to create a stable Northern Ireland, but they couldn’t. This is because they are not so much a political party as an emotion.

As historian Brendan O’Leary explains in his masterwork on the North, the North is not a state, or even a province. It is instead an unworkable fantasy based on unionist supremacy. A ragbag of a place whose raison d’etre has always been to rub the Catholics’ noses in it. We have lived through systematic discrimination, electoral fraud, deprivation of the vote, violent repression of civil rights, shoot to kill, massacres of innocent civilians without consequence (Bloody Sunday, Glenanne, Ballymurphy) and so on.

If children in the Republic were taught that in 1971, thousands of Catholic men were rounded up and detained in a detention camp outside Belfast without charge or trial for up to three years, they would think you were joking. Doesn’t that only happen in Russia?In 1976, after a music night at the Bellaghy club, my parents and a few friends, including my Aunt Maura, who was on the lookout for a man at the time, were stopped by a UDR patrol. My father was taken over the hill out of sight and three shots rang out.

Then Packie Kealey (a fiddler). Then Lawrence Mulholland. When car lights appeared on the horizon, the soldiers got back in their Land Rover and drove off. My Aunt Maura said: “Your mother was heavily pregnant with Aine. We ran over the hill in hysterics. We thought they were dead. They were all alive. Just badly beaten.” Subsequently, the men were awarded £5,000 in damages at Magherafelt District Court. No one was ever charged. This was normal life for us.

The Republic turned a blind eye. As writer and historian Paul Larkin put it recently, the only explanation for the hysterical Southern response to anyone talking honestly about the North “is self shame – a phenomenon well attested in post-colonial societies”. It is a sense of guilt that comes from them having sat on their hands as the horrors unfolded. Much easier The short-termism of the DUP is seen in their fantasy that Brexit would lead to the restoration of the Border and a “final solution” (as Gregory put it on RTÉ last week) to the six counties problem. The only way to avoid a border between Britain and the North was a soft Brexit, but the DUP wrecked Mrs May’s deal, proclaimed Rees Mogg and Boris (who wouldn’t pee on them if they were on fire) the saviours of the Union and hurtled on towards self-destruction.

Three years on, Boris, with a majority that returned the DUP to the status of an embarrassing sideshow, duly peed on them from a great height (they were not on fire, to be fair) and did a Brexit deal that created a de facto United Ireland. As MP Ian Paisley put it in Westminster in January, pointing at the Tories, voice trembling with rage: “What did we do to members on those benches to be screwed over by this protocol?”Nothing of substance binds the North to the UK. There is no kinship between English people and Northern unionists. The Tories have always loathed the DUP and are loathed in return.

Unlike in 1920, when the North was an industrial powerhouse, it now contributes nothing to the UK. With Scottish independence looming and 40pc of Welsh voters favouring independence, it is no coincidence that significant English voices are talking openly about severing the link.I have no interest in party politics. I never voted Sinn Féin. I despaired when the Women’s Coalition was destroyed because I believed then as I do now that women from both persuasions can create a new type of politics here. My prediction is that the UK government will soon start the discussion in earnest. They want out. Therefore, it is inevitable.

A civic forum needs to be created that gives a voice to the highly educated and decent Northern Protestant constituency that has been drowned out by the DUP – the one Andrew Trimble referred to on Monday night.The first step might be a two-state solution. Stormont would remain, but it would no longer be a political kindergarten overseen by the British. Both states would be in the EU (a referendum would be needed to return the North fully, but since 56pc voted to remain and only 44pc to leave in the Brexit referendum, this would be a formality). Northern Protestants would continue to have the same rights as they have now, including UK citizenship and UK passport; the same representatives; the same daily lives.

There would be strong bilateral agreements. The US, the UK and the EU would willingly provide long-term financial support. This would be, as Martin McAleese put it recently, “pocket change to them”. With the UK gone, there would be no point in triumphalism. Short-termism would be replaced by the dull nuts and bolts of long-term problem solving. Progressive, well-educated Protestant voices would emerge. We have a very peaceful society. In the new dispensation, we would begin to have a functional society. After that, if people on both sides of the Border felt it would be better to join together, that could be easily worked out. Stormont could remain as a regional parliament.

It would all develop organically.Unionists and Southerners have nothing to fear. The trick is to approach the problems honestly. Only then will the solutions emerge. I could not be more optimistic about the future – and no one will have to choke on their own blood.”

How The Democrat Leadership Would Have Backed Trump To Stop Sanders….

You can see the story here.

British Gov’t To Libyan Semtex Victims: ‘Get Lost’….

You can read HMG’s response to the probe of Libyan aid to the IRA carried out by the author William Shawcross here, but essentially Libyan victims will get nothing from the British government and there is nothing the British can or will do to force the Libyan government to pay up. Shawcross is due to make his findings public tomorrow…..

More Evidence UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee Had A Troubles’ Role

Thanks to PS for this tip which adds further weight to the view that Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) did play a role in the intelligence war in Northern Ireland. Myself and BBC journalist John Ware have clashed over this issue with Ware denying that JIC was a player in the Troubles and myself insisting to the contrary (see here).

The JIC is the British Cabinet-run body which is officially described as: ‘…an interagency deliberative body responsible for intelligence assessment, coordination, and oversight of the Secret Intelligence Service, Security Service, GCHQ, and Defence Intelligence. The JIC is supported by the Joint Intelligence Organisation under the Cabinet Office.’

More evidence supporting the view that the JIC had oversight of intelligence issues in Northern Ireland comes in this recent obituary of a key GCHQ operative, Michael Harman whose passing was marked by The Times newspaper at the weekend.

The obit noted, inter alia :
Between 1972 and 1975 Herman had been seconded to the Cabinet Office as secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Much of his time there was spent on Northern Ireland; such was the threat to the British mainland that it was seen as an equal priority.

Here is the full article:

Michael Herman obituary
Intelligence expert and trailblazer in the study of his secretive profession

Herman joined GCHQ in 1952
Saturday March 20 2021, 12.01am, The Times

Michael Herman’s career in British intelligence began just after the start of the Cold War and ended just before the thaw. Liberated by retirement to study and lecture on the thrust and counter-thrust of spying, Herman came to the conclusion that western intelligence agencies had largely done their job.

London and Washington built up an accurate picture of where Soviet and Chinese troops, weaponry, and naval vessels were, he said, greatly reducing the possibility of a Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack, and allowing some relaxation in western capitals of their trigger grip on the weapons of nuclear deterrence.

However, failures included the conclusion that the Soviet army had 170 divisions, but without realising that only about one third were combat-ready. The West also overestimated the number of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. In reality the “missile gap” in favour of the Soviet Union never existed; the West had more long-range, nuclear missiles than the Soviets.

At the end of his 35-year career, mainly spent in signals intelligence at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, Herman attempted to put right the severe lack of literature for young people entering the service. He had risen to the top of GCHQ by learning from his mistakes and wanted to pass on a rulebook of sorts.

“We didn’t read books. For most of the time there was little serious intelligence literature,” he remarked in 2016 of his career at GCHQ, which was punctuated by a spell as secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee in the early Seventies. “The prevailing attitude was that intelligence books were dangerous and discouraged.”

After all, the true purpose of GCHQ (to send and intercept intelligence signals) had first come to wider public attention only in 1982 during the trial of the KGB mole there, Geoffrey Prime. Until then, the term “going to the West Country” was met with a nod and a wink by cognoscenti in officialdom.

As a trailblazer in the academic study of intelligence, Herman cracked open his world, producing a number of trusted works as a fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and the founder of the Oxford Intelligence Group (OIG).
Michael Herman was born an only child in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, in 1929 to Kitty and Carl Herman, who worked for the family bacon-processing business and was also an artist. Michael attended Scarborough High School. National Service from 1947 took him to Egypt as a junior officer in the Intelligence Corps and his first exposure to signals intelligence. In 1949 he went to The Queen’s College, Oxford, to read modern history, graduating with first-class honours.

His tutor was the medieval historian John Prestwich, who had spent the war in Hut 3 of Bletchley Park, decrypting signals and releasing them to commanders in the field.

Herman joined GCHQ in 1952 on Prestwich’s recommendation to Eric Jones, another veteran of Hut 3 who had recently taken over from Edward Travis as the head of GCHQ . Unhappy, Herman was poised to return to academia after a year and was persuaded to stay only after joining GCHQ’s rugby team.

Over the years he was put in charge of V Division, responsible for radar signals and other technical intelligence, and Z Division, responsible for intelligence policy and external relationships. The highlight of his time at GCHQ was running J Division in the late Seventies and early Eighties, which focused on the Soviet target. “I was running nearly 1,000 people in Cheltenham and half our collection resources worldwide, and with all the American and other foreign contacts this entailed: the sort of job you dream about.”

Between 1972 and 1975 Herman had been seconded to the Cabinet Office as secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Much of his time there was spent on Northern Ireland; such was the threat to the British mainland that it was seen as an equal priority.

In the last year of service Herman worked in the Cabinet Office as adviser to the Chief of Defence Intelligence. All the while he collected material for his first book, overcoming fierce resistance in Whitehall with a mixture of doggedness and charm.

On retiring from GCHQ in 1987 he went to Nuffield College, Oxford, on a Gwilym Gibbon Research Fellowship. Nine years later Intelligence Power in Peace and War was published. Chatham House, which co-published the book with the Cambridge University Press, convened a panel of grizzled diplomatic veterans to look over the draft. Herman recalled the red pen of the “brilliant, but acerbic” Sir Reginald Hibbert, former UK ambassador to France, scribbled all over his prose.

He conceived the work as a “thoughtful textbook”. Anyone expecting the excitement of a spy thriller would be disappointed by the sober overview of his craft. What it did do was unpack a subject still considered out of bounds, arcane, increasingly technical and littered with acronyms, even in the days of more open government. It became a standard text

Herman began to lecture widely and wrote several more books.11 September: Legitimizing Intelligence, produced after the 9-11 attacks in 2001, analysed the acceleration of a new intelligence paradigm: targeting “non-state”, “partial state” or “rogue state” entities and supporting multinational action.

Herman gave evidence to Lord Butler’s Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2004. His recommendation to bolster the woefully inadequate technical expertise in the civil service (with many seconded from other departments to deal with intelligence matters) was taken seriously.

His lectures would tell the story of early postwar western surveillance techniques in the days before satellites with US and UK surveillance aircraft, manned and unmanned, being shot down by the Soviets, and how embassies, converted into something resembling medieval castles, became important listening posts around the world.
From the beginning the Soviets had a sophisticated intelligence apparatus, but they were defeated by Joseph Stalin’s increasing paranoia. As a result the Kremlin initially failed to use the information effectively because so much of the product captured by the KGB was viewed as western disinformation. However, Soviet moles burrowed deep into the heart of British intelligence. Herman had supervised Prime. After the latter’s treachery was exposed, he could not bear to hear his name.

Herman’s latest book, Intelligence Power in Practice, will be published this year. A collection of essays, it also contains recollections on the development of the Teufelsberg SIGINT station in Berlin, which had been built on a hill made from the rubble of bombed buildings and was a highly successful surveillance facility, logging, among other things, the mass exodus of Soviet soldiers at the end of each summer to help with the harvest in the motherland.
Another gripping tale in the book is the Soviet reaction to Nato’s Able Archer exercise in 1983, a large-scale war-gaming operation. Acting on intelligence from the KGB double agent Oleg Gordievsky, the West was alerted to the fact that the Soviets had taken the exercise so seriously that they had readied their nuclear warheads.

Herman married Ann Wedel in 1977. They had met at a sailing club near Cheltenham. In his eighties he would sail a single-handed catamaran. He was also a regular patron of the real tennis court in Oxford.

Before his death, Herman called for intelligence to be studied in a worldwide context, so that different approaches could be compared. “The modern challenge is for intelligence to support international co-operation,” he said, “while at the same time developing international ‘rules of the game’.”

Michael Herman, intelligence expert, was born on June 1, 1929. He died of frailty of old age on February 12, 2021, aged 91.

Gerry Adams’ Easter Eggs….

Why could I never find such hard-hitting stories to write? I am so envious of this Molly person; Journalist of the Year beckons, without a doubt!

Private Eye on Greenslime Scandal

While on the subject of former IT editor Conor Brady coming to the defence of Grauniad ex-editor Alan Rusbridger’s handling of the Roy Greenslade scandal, I wonder did Brady come clean with The Sunday Times’ editors and readers about his business relationship with Rusbridger?

It seems that Brady, along with his son, Neil, is a co-founder of CaliberAI, a Dublin-based company devoted to devising and selling computer programmes to the media that can spot and eradicate potential libelous content before the lawyers do.

CaliberAI has an advisory panel drawn from the legal, journalism and academic world and just guess who is listed among the members:

Looks Like Ciaran Barnes Has Really Fucked Up This Time…..

Thanks to MB for the tip. There really can’t be a graver offence for a journalist to commit than to claim someone has died when in fact they are very much alive, even if the person involved is a notorious UVF supergrass. Over to the Tele’s new owners, Mediahuis:

From Mau-Mau To IRA, Some Things Didn’t Change……

Those of my readers who were able to watch the television documentary ‘I, Dolours‘ will, I hope, remember that part of Dolours Price’s interview in which she described how, after being given a bye-ball by Brendan Hughes following her admission that she had been working for the British Army, the IRA in the lower Falls recognised Jean McConville in Hastings Street RUC barracks, draped in a blanket which was fitted with eye-holes, as she allegedly resumed her spying career by scrutinising a parade of IRA suspects who had been arrested by British troops.

Today I was watching Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, another brilliant film (which you can access on YouTube) made by that strange genius Adam Curtis, which begins with the end of empire in the post-war years, heralded by an uprising in Kenya, spear headed by the IRA of its time and place, an organisation called the Mau-Mau.,

One of the military minds leading the British fightback against the Mau-Mau was a young British subaltern by the name of Frank Kitson who would, some two decades later, as General Frank Kitson, command British military forces in Belfast in their war against the Irish Mau-Mau, the Provisional IRA.

Very early in the film there are scenes of the British Army in action in Kenya which those people who were paraded in front of a blanket-draped housewife in a Belfast police station all those years later would immediately recognise as mirroring their own experience. All that is different is the skin colour of those behind the hoods:

An Intriguing Question From Roy Greenslade’s Maoist Past……

According to the article ‘Reg’s Working Class Party‘, Roy Greenslade was still a member of the CPB (ML), the Maoist Communist Party in Britain, when he went to Sussex University in 1974. The relevant section reads:

….the Party was not without its share of intellectual talent whose names entered the public arena: ‘Bill’ William Franklin Ash, the writer, married to Ranjana Sidhanta Ash, freelance lecturer and writer of South Asian literatures, Roy Greenslade , an experienced tabloid news sub before going to Sussex University in 1974, and its share of teachers, Dorothy Birch and lecturers, Fawi Ibrahim at Willesden College of Technology, and the former LSE lecturer Nick Bateson.

We also know from his own writing that he was converted to the cause of physical force Irish republicanism, i.e. support for the Provisional IRA, in 1972 when he was in Derry at the time of Bloody Sunday, some two years before he went to Sussex University. So, presumably, he was a Maoist at the time. Also presumably, the IRA in Derry, then as later with Martin McGuinness as one of its leaders, regarded him then as a fraternal comrade at least.

And also presumably, the Provos in Derry continued to regard him in that favorable, dare one say comradely light in the intervening years, even when he became a full-time journalist, perhaps going so as far as opening doors to him closed to others – and granting him access to figures like Pat Doherty, one time Army Council member, IRA intelligence chief and the man whose job it was to locate venues in Co Donegal for high level IRA meetings, including the 1997 Army Convention, who became his friend.

That would make Roy Greenslade a very well connected man. Interesting, yes?